Defending champions Nyasa Big Bullets were made to endure a frustrating day in the TNM Super League as they were held to a goalless draw by an obstinate Karonga United on Saturday afternoon at Karonga Stadium.
The visitors started the game on front foot, putting the hosts under pressure in the opening 25 minutes of play.
Despite their dominance, Bullets were unable to fashion many chance, with their first noteworthy chance coming in the 12th minute as Lanjesi Nkhoma forced Karonga United keeper Yona Milanzi into action with a hopeful but weaker shot outside the 18-yard box.
The visitors hit back with a chance of their own five minutes later, but it came to nothing as Dan Godfrey drilled a left-footed shot over Rabson Chiyenda’s goal.
In the 16th minute, Babatunde Adepoju got the better of Bob Longwe to the far right and sprinted to the attacking zone before making his way into the box to release a shot which beat Milanzi in the line of duty only to be denied by the post to the relief of the home team.
The People’s Team was pressing from all angles and nearly scored the opener in the 24th minute when Lanjesi Nkhoma delivered a brilliant pass to Idana but the midfielder’s shot went wide from the close range.
Bullets thought they had scored a goal in the 32nd minute when Idana’s shot freekick to Patrick Mwaungulu found Adepoju unmarked and made a simple tap in only to be denied by the second assistant referee for an offside call.
The visitors were under siege in the 37th minute when Sherrif Shamama was set through by Josiah Duwa but the forward was quick to make a decision and fired over the crossbar when his friends were steady and ready inside the box.
The final chance for Bullets fell through to Precious Sambani from a corner which was played by Mwaungulu only to send his header over the cross bar for a goalkick to the home team.
After the recess, coach Kalisto Pasuwa made a tactical change in Mwaungulu and Nkhoma who were replaced by John Lanjesi and Hassan Kajoke.
This meant Gomezgani Chirwa was moved to the right winger, with Kesten Simbi switching to the right back.
But Bullets struggled to maintain the first half form, with each and every ball in the midfield going to their opponents.
Coach for the home side Christopher Nyambose brought in Lackson Sangano for Victor Chirambo as he tried to improve his striking force which seemed to be struggling against Nickson Nyasulu’s led defence.
Twice within the space period of five minutes, the hosts threated at goal but their front men were not clinical enough to capitalize on their counter attacking football.
This forced Nyambose to make another change in the 57th when he brought in Khumbo Msowoya for Godfrey.
However, it was Bullets who regained back control of the midfield through Yamikani Fodya, Idana and Ernest Petro who made his first appearance since recovering from an injury he suffered three weeks ago.
The league champions continued to prod and probe, and very nearly got the breakthrough they were looking for in the 58th minute after Sambani found the advanced Chirwa inside the six-yard box but he failed to connect home with only the shot-stopper to beat.
With pressure mounting on the home side, players resorted to plan B by applying unnecessary delaying tactics, resulting into too many stoppages.
Chirwa was cautioned on 64th minute when he stamped his foot on Longwe.
In the 70th minute, Nyasulu failed to close down Duwa who delivered a very dangerous cross into the box to force Chiyenda to spill the ball back into the danger area. However, the defence was alert to the danger, clearing the ball upfield.
The hosts were slowly gaining momentum and should have produced something out of nothing when Msowoya created a shooting space for Sangano who shot wide off Chiyenda’s goal posts.
The home side earned a free-kick in a good position in the 80th minute, just 25 yards outside Bullets’ goal area.
Duwa stepped up and delivered a brilliant ball at goal which forced Chiyenda out of his comfort zone to produce a fantastic save to the relief of the visitors who survived the scare.
Pasuwa brought in Anthony Mfune for Babatunde Adepoju whilst Jabulani Nyirenda replaced Shamama for the home team.
The remainder of the half failed to produce any real goal-scoring chances as both defences held firm to share a point each.
The result means Bullets are still second on the table with 14 points from six games whilst Karonga United are stuck in the bottom three with four points from the same number of games.
Bullets’s next stop will be at Mzuzu Stadium to play Moyale Barracks who were hammered 3-1 by Mafco FC at Chitowe Stadium.
In other matches, Mighty Tigers good start to the season continued when they got the better of Dedza Dynamos 2-1 to move into the third position of the league with 12 points.
Tigers’ goals came from George Chaomba and Kondwani Chilembwe, with Clement Nyondo scoring for the visitors who have now dropped to 10th position with 8 points from six games.